WCL Helps Resource Pros Reach Women Landowners

SarahS_MO NRCS The Women Caring for the Land program continues to impress resource professionals whose job it is to get up-to-date conservation information into the hands of landowners – in this case, non-operator female landowners.

Since its inception in 2009, more than 2,000 women have attended at least one WCL meeting in eight upper Midwestern states. Sarah Szachnieski is a resource conservationist for four eastern Missouri counties and federal women’s program manager for NRCS in Missouri. She partnered with WFAN to host a women landowner learning circle last fall in Montgomery City.

“The Women Caring for the Land meeting model gives women the chance to have a conversation with each other [about conservation] without being in a presentation,” she says. “Several women attended our meeting who weren’t familiar with NRCS or our programs before.”

The WCL model relies on peer-to-peer sharing, adhering to the philosophy that all women have something to teach and something to learn. Many women who attend meetings have inherited family farmland and have not been involved in farm management decisions in the past. They have strong conservation values, but need support and information from one another and the resource professionals in the room in order to turn those values into reality.

Sarah said, “One lady who came had been born and raised on farm, but moved away and when her parents died, she chose to retire early and move back to the farm. She was brought by her operator to the meeting, who is also a woman.” Sarah said the operator was interested in trying cover crops to control soil erosion, but the landowner didn’t have the information she needed to make the decision. “By the time she left, the landowner was not only interested in cover crops, but was interested in getting a couple of sheep and trying some grazing as well,” said Sarah.

Another attendee is now working with Sarah to finance a high tunnel, and yet another has taken advantage of NRCS’ EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) to get cost-share assistance to hire a consultant to assess their situation, take a look at operation, and write a plan for the three-year transition to organic management.

For more information about Women Caring for the Land, including a calendar of upcoming meetings, visit this link, or call WFAN at 515 460 2477.